People suffering from flu could be at more than six times higher risk of a heart attack a week after, than in the year before or after, a new study suggests. The study, led by researchers from the University Medical Centre Utrecht in The Netherlands, said the results underline the importance of the flu vaccination programme, as well as awareness of heart attack symptoms among doctors treating patients with flu, the Independent reported.
“Our results endorse strategies to prevent influenza infection, including vaccination. They also advocate for a raised awareness among physicians and hospitalised flu patients for symptoms of heart attacks,” lead author Dr Annemarijn de Boer, from the University, was quoted as saying.
“While it isn’t clear from our results if those with less severe flu are also at risk, it is prudent for them to be aware of the link,” de Boer added. The findings come amidst rising cases of flu in India, driven by the H3N2 virus.
For the study, the team analysed lab test results of 26,221 cases of influenza between 2008 and 2019 and compared them with death and hospital records. About 401 patients had a heart attack in the year before or after a bout of flu — some of them suffered more than one heart attack with the researchers noting 419 heart attacks in total.
Of the total heart attacks, 25 were in the first seven days after flu diagnosis, 217 within the year before diagnosis, and 177 in the year after flu diagnosis – not including the first seven days, the report said.
About 35 percent of patients who had a heart attack died, of any cause, within a year of being diagnosed with the flu. The findings will also be to the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen in April.
According to a previous study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the flu virus plays a role in rupturing plaque, causing heart attacks. Annual flu shots, however, were found to reduce the risk.